The year was 1765; King George III was on the throne. It was over 44 years before Charles Darwin was born and approximately one year before Captain James Cook, at the age of 37 years, took up his commission as commander of the HM Bark Endeavour. Cook, through three voyages to the Pacific, discovered Australia and New Zealand and eventually died at the hand the natives of Hawaii. HMS Victory, a ship of the Royal Navy, was launched in 1765. She is best known as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. In the same year a young man of 35 years was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Most Honourable Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquis of Rockingham, a Whig. He served from 1765 to 1766 and in November of the same year the Lodge of Lights No 352 (now No 148) was founded with meetings at The Fleece in Warrington. The lodge continues from strength to strength, from generation to generation!
This being the 250th celebratory year of the lodge’s existence, the committee set forth a plan of celebratory measures. It was decided that a good way to start the celebrations would be to invite the Sutton Coldfield Study Circle Demonstration Team, to perform in period costume, a typical initiation ceremony dating back to 1765, using the ritual of the year the lodge was founded.
So the scene was set and all that was needed was a candidate for the evening. Alan Ellis, the most recent entered apprentice of the lodge, seemed the most logical person to ask to dress-up in period costume and go through a re-enactment of the ceremony, provided it didn’t confuse his expectations of Freemasonry too much!
Over 80 members and guests attended the meeting to witness the event, including grand officers Stan Churm, David Redhead and Chris Eyres (group chairman). The lodge was opened in the normal way by WM Stanley Jackson and the usual administration undertaken. This was followed by a ‘calling off’ and Stanley then introduced the Sutton Coldfield Demonstration Team and their performance started.
A quick introduction was provided by their worshipful master to help put everything into context. The ancient brethren assembled and just as normal, (not quite as normal, but recognisable features were present), the minutes of their last meeting were discussed and agreed. The business was to initiate a gentleman by the name of Alan Ellis, who was then admitted with again several similarities compared with today’s practices.
The lodge room was laid out into two separate parts, with a table at one end and a floor covering marked out on a sheet at the other. The main reason was because early lodges usually met in a single room and the dining area was in the same room as the lodge area. The lodge area probably would have been marked out with chalk or charcoal onto a wooden floor. It is noted in the minute book that the lodge was banned from one public house because the apprentice washed the floor with water and made such a mess!
It would appear that our ancient brethren spent a lot of time ‘calling off’ and ‘calling on’, with a lot of time spent on refreshment rather than on work! Indeed whist the lodge was open much liquid refreshment was consumed.
Alan was well and truly initiated and judging by the smile on his face for the whole of the performance, he enjoyed it tremendously. The performance which was light hearted, but with much realism, had many recognisable sections even by modern Freemasons and was extremely enjoyable and good fun.
Following on from the demonstration Stanley, thanked the Sutton Coldfield team for their excellent demonstration. The lodge was then ‘called on’ and work continued. Many comments were passed by members and guests including: “Now I understand where that came from”, “that explains why we do ….”, “it was surprising how much is still used today” and so on.
Keith Dickinson presented the WM with a copy of the actual ritual used at about the time the lodge was founded. Keith had tracked down two copies of the original hand written document by John Yarker. One is located at United Grand Lodge in London, with the second being held by the Grand Lodge of Iowa, USA. The one at Queen Street is available for inspection, but copying is not permitted. However, Iowa have a copying facility, so by kind permission of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, the Lodge of Lights now has a copy of its original ritual. Please note the number 148 is not applied in this case, because the number was allocated later.
Following the meeting an excellent three course meal was served by the hall staff. A raffle was held and a total of £286 (including the charity plate), was allocated to the Sutton Coldfield team to determine which Masonic charity they would like to nominate as the beneficiary. The team leader very kindly suggested that they would like to put the funds back to the Lodge of Lights No 148, for their reallocation in November at the 250th anniversary celebratory meeting. They commented that they had enjoyed the meeting very much and considered it an honour and privilege to perform a ceremony from 1765, to a lodge which was in existence at that time. Stanley thanked the team for their donation and for a most enjoyable ceremony and all the hard work they had put into it. He wished them a safe journey home and thanked everyone for their attendance.
The members and guests really were happy to meet and sorry to part because they had all enjoyed the evening very much. For many members the event brought home the age of this magnificent lodge and had pointed out how solid and stable Freemasonry is, particularly in modern times with so much flux.